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McKnight Neighborhood Meeting 08/09/16

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Board Meeting: August 9, 2016                                                                                                    Approved September 13, 2016                       

Minutes McKnight Neighborhood Council

Meeting called to order by President Walter K at 6:10 pm.

Board Members Present (11): Lamont E Clemons; Tawreak Eddington, Asst Treas; Lorenzo Gaines; Walter

Kroll, President; Bryan McFarland, Vice President; Elizabeth O’Gilvie; Damian Phillips, Asst Secy/Clerk;

Synthia Scott-Mitchell, Secy/Clerk; Ben Swan, Jr; Paul Swenson; Giselle Vizcarrondo

Board Members Not Present (4): Lloyd A Creswell; Art Jones; Nick Panteleakis; Elizabeth Stevens, Treasurer

Administrative Staff:   Elizabeth Lederman

Neighborhood Members: David Spafford, Deb Papagno, David Gaby, Bruce Arnold, Roberta Kilkenny, Stephen Holland

Guests: Jeff Morneau, Karen Lee, Jacqueline Parker

Pres Walter K welcomed those attending the meeting; Board and audience introductions followed.



  • Jeff Morneau, Candidate for Governor’s Council
  • The Governor’s Council represents 96 towns in western Massachusetts including Hampshire, Hampden, and Berkshire counties. The Council is an elected position whose function is to assist the Governor in the selection of judges, members of the Parole Board, and the commutation of sentences.
  • Mr Morneau identified himself as a progressive Democrat and said he thinks that the key responsibility of the office is in the selection of judges. He talked about the importance of judges and how widely they affect the general population.
  • Mr Morneau believes that these selections should be based on the merits of individuals as to their potential to effectively serve their communities, rather than on political cronyism.
  • He believes in local judges for local courts—the best judges are those who know their own communities.
  • He answered questions on gun laws, saying he generally supports 2nd amendment rights.
  • He was asked the formation of a “drug court” in Springfield, which is in the process of being established. He said he supports the concept, pointing out that 75% of those adjudicated through drug courts remain arrest-free thereafter. He said that this initiative in Springfield really needs the support of the DA, as well as many other officials, and he is uncertain that there is the will to do this currently.
  • He was asked about the issue of the limited number of minority judges. He said there is no lack of qualified people in the legal community, however there are not a diverse number of people applying for judgeships. He has done a lot of outreach as President of the Hampden County Bar Association to encourage individuals to think about this path for the future.
  • He was asked about the problems of distinguishing mental illness from criminality in general and in the adjudication process. He said it was a big problem in the prisons that our local county sheriffs struggle with, and a difficult and complex problem in assessing whether or not a person needs jail or mental health care. Judges rely on the opinion of the experts.
  • He said he personally believes that it is paramount to try and keep a person with genuine mental health issues at the heart of their behaviors from getting a record, and spiraling out of control going forward—and trying to get them the initial help they need in the first place.


  • PRESIDENT’S REPORT: (Walter Kroll)
  • Pres Walter K gave an overview of the goals he sees for the Council in the upcoming year. The goal this year is first to keep it simple and straightforward—out of respect to everyone’s time, meetings should begin and end on time; a flyer on meeting etiquette was attached to the agenda which laid out general guidelines for listening to and respecting everyone’s input and participation.
  • He reported that the executive Board as a leadership team is focusing on organization as a beginning step going forward. A lot of the bandwidth of the Council comes from people stepping up and participating, not just the Board but people from the neighborhood getting involved. If the Board is not organized, then people are less likely to get involved.
  • The focus is for the work to get done through the committees and the work should be taking place throughout the month. The monthly meeting should be a summary of what has been done.
  • The goal is for each committee to be full with active and participating members, whether through meetings, emails, or specific activities.
  • The role of the Committee Chair is important and the responsibilities should be clearly outlined, as well as the expectations for members; and each committee should have a clear purpose and scope.
  • As a starting point, a draft document with tentative committee descriptions, current chairs, and committee responsibilities was distributed to the Board members and neighborhood members present.
  • The overarching goal is to help mobilize the energy in the neighborhood by matching people with their talents and interests, and networking to get the information and participation that drives forward the different initiatives that the Council chooses to pursue. In short, it is a back and forth between the neighborhood and Council, which circulates through the committees and the Board which meets as a whole each month.
  • VICE-PRESIDENT’S REPORT: (Bryan McFarland)
  • Vice Pres Bryan M outlined the expectations he has set forth for himself in his leadership role as vice-president, committing himself to greater participation. His approach has been to take on practical, achievable goals, identifying the necessary steps to complete these projects, and following them through to completion.
  • His previous activities on behalf of the Council have included beautification and social media. The Council’s previously seldom-viewed Facebook page had over 7,000 views during the past week and 30 new page likes.
  • These activities will continue, and he will contribute time and energy to the Rail Trail project and to public safety.
  • SECRETARY’S REPORT: (Synthia Scott-Mitchell)
  • Sec Synthia M submitted for approval the minutes of 7/12/16 Board Meeting & 7/27/16 Executive Board Meeting:


  • MOTION: (BM moved) to accept as presented; (EO seconded); (WK call for discussion); Rep Lamont C requested a change in the Executive Board meeting minutes; motion amended to include change by Rep Bryan M and seconded by Rep Elizabeth O; (WK called the question): Motion carried unanimously.
  • TREASURER’S REPORT: (Elizabeth Stevens)
    • Asst Treasurer Tawreak E distributed a July financial report and a summary of FY16 expenditures.
    • He reported that CDBG funding for FY17 is $11,000, a decrease of $250 from last year. Additionally, last year’s total expenditures exceeded the CDBG funding amount by $2752.75. The Council begins the new fiscal year with $3467.12 in non-CDBG funds.
    • Rep Elizabeth O noted the need to develop a projected budget which can be used to plan for and remedy the likely deficits in the upcoming year.
    • MOTION: (EO moved) that the Executive Board develop a projected budget for this year to be presented at the next meeting; (PS seconded); (WK call for discussion); (WK called the question): Motion carried unanimously.
  • Asst Treas Tawreak E identified potential areas of savings including—switching from Vonage phone service which costs over $300 to Google Voice which is free, eliminating the hot dog vendor at the block party which costs $700, and eliminating the porta-potty which cost $150. Additionally, Treas Elizabeth S is looking into different printing and mailing options for the newsletter, which is currently published twice a year.
  • Discussion followed about the various money-saving ideas. Rep Lamont C committed to finding donations of hotdogs and hamburgers for the next block party. Pres Walter K noted that newsletter ads reduce the cost of the newsletter, but people have to be willing to sell ads.
  • MOTION: (EO moved) to accept the treasurer’s report as presented; (PS seconded); (WK call for discussion); (WK called the question): Motion carried unanimously.




  • Google Voice Trial


  • Rep Bryan M in process of setting up a Google Voice account for the Council. Will be ready in a week or so to use. Will trial the service and run it parallel to the Vonage for a period of time to determine the quality of it and if it meets the Council’s needs. Board will vote on the switch if it is determined to be workable.

NEW BUSINESS—Open to the Floor

  • A neighborhood member reported a number of alleged problems occurring on Yale Street. Requesting assistance from the Council because they feel City Services and Police are being unresponsive. Public safety to follow up.
  • Another neighborhood member reported a recent shooting incident at Rebecca Johnson School playground and park. The incident took place in broad daylight with families and children present as a young adult male allegedly fired shots at two other young men who fled. The resident reported that the 911 dispatch handled the call poorly, the initial police response was slow, and that follow up showed that the video cameras at the school were not working. After contacting various City officials and departments, the resident had received only a few responses and no action—requesting that the Council address problems with the Dispatch response, and work on increasing safety measures at Rebecca Johnson.
  • Pres Walter K reported that he has been working to address this incident since it happened, has heard back on the investigative report, and talked with the Police.
  • He recommended a four-pronged approach going forward. The Chief of Police, the Mayor, the Superintendent (and the principal of RJS), and someone from Parks need to be brought to the table. The Police need to do more effective patrolling in the area. The overgrowth of the trees surrounding RJS needs to be trimmed to help facilitate this. The security cameras need to be working and aimed correctly.
  • He stressed that it is important that everyone sit down at once to avoid passing the buck and everyone waiting for the other group to do something.
  • The Board discussed the incident at length and agreed that the problem area around Rebecca Johnson broadly involved Bergen Circle, Girard Avenue, and Marion Street. Neighborhood member David G said that Bergen Circle has video surveillance that is provided by the State, and Rep Ben S agreed with him that engaging the management at Bergen Circle Apartments could be helpful in addressing the current situation. The possibility of having two public meetings, one at Bergen Circle and one at the school, was discussed.


  • MOTION: (EO moved) that the Council create an ad hoc committee, chaired by the President of this body, to address public safety by convening a meeting of the four prongs that Walter identified, and the management, state and local, of Bergen Circle. (PS seconded); (WK call for discussion); Admin Asst Elizabeth L asked for a clarification as to whether this motion was for one meeting or two meetings, and was told it was for two different meetings (WK called the question): Motion carried unanimously.
  • Rep Tawreak E reported that he has contacted Family Dollar management for the store on State Street because the grass is overgrown on their lot, and the loud speaker volume is still too loud and goes off in the middle of night when no one is there. He was instructed to file online complaints, and has only received generic responses with no action taken. Some discussion occurred, but no definitive action decided.


  • Rep Paul S proposed that since there was only twenty minutes of meeting time left, that the committee work be done outside the meeting, with each committee chair reviewing the description of their committee in the handout that was provided, and each chair could contact their members to see if they were continuing to volunteer for the coming year. Board members who were interested in joining a committee or chairing a particular committee could contact the current chair of that committee—and then committee chairs can report off at the September meeting, neighbors could be encouraged to join, and the committee list can be completed.


  • MOTION: (PS moved) to complete the committee work as detailed above; (LG seconded); (WK call for discussion);
  • Rep Ben S noted that appointing chairs is the responsibility of the President; however these conversations could take place in the interim and be reviewed and confirmed at the next meeting. Rep Giselle V asked if the Good Neighbor Committee was being restored, Rep Elizabeth O confirmed that it is. An agreement was made to Co-chair the committee and rename it the Good Neighbor/Community Engagement Committee.  


  • (WK called the question); Motion carried unanimously.


  • Two neighborhood members reported that a picture and the address of their house had been posted on the McKnight Council Facebook page, and it was identified it as being associated with drag racing taking place on St James Avenue. They requested that the post be removed.
  • Discussion occurred with some Board members expressing the opinion that the posting was inappropriate, and offering apologies to the residents.
  • MOTION: (EO moved) that the post be removed and that the Board review its policies on posting; (BS seconded); (WK call for discussion); (WK called the question): Motion carried unanimously.
  • Communications Chair Ben S said he would work on developing a policy proposal on posting.8:00 pm: Meeting adjourned.  MOTION:   (EO moved) to adjourn; (TE seconded); (WK called); Motion unanimous.
  • Submitted for approval by Elizabeth Lederman, Administrative Staff, 09/13/16